April 18, 2019 / 12:03 PM / 2 months ago

European Parliament condemns Brunei over 'retrograde' death penalty for gay sex

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The European Parliament on Thursday strongly condemned Brunei for introducing “retrograde” Islamic laws that punish gay sex and adultery with death by stoning.

The Muslim-majority sultanate has drawn global condemnation from the United Nations, governments and a host of celebrities for introducing the latest stage of Sharia laws on April 3. It began rolling out the Islamic criminal laws in 2014.

Along with stoning for sodomy, the laws impose the death penalty on rapists and punish thieves with amputation.

The resolution adopted by the European Parliament “strongly condemns the entry into force of the retrograde Sharia Penal Code; (and) urges the Bruneian authorities to immediately repeal it.”

The measure was passed on a show of hands, the parliament said in a statement.

The lawmakers also called on the EU to consider asset freezes and visa bans on the Southeast Asian nation, and to blacklist nine hotels owned the Brunei Investment Agency, including The Dorchester in London and The Beverley Hills Hotel in Los Angeles.

Naqib Adnan, the second secretary of Brunei’s embassy to the European Union, declined to comment when reached by phone and said no other officials would comment.

In a letter to MEPs before the vote, Brunei said it “does not criminalize nor has any intention to victimize a person’s status based on sexual orientation or belief, including same-sex relations”.

The letter said that stoning to death and amputations could only happen if “men of high moral standing and piety” had witnessed the alleged crime beyond all doubt.

A copy of the letter was obtained by the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

‘HORRIBLE SETBACKS’

Previously homosexuality was illegal in Brunei and punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment, but human rights groups said the changes would allow whipping and stoning for Muslims found guilty of adultery, sodomy and rape.

Brunei has said it would only impose the new penalties when it had strong evidence and that its primary aim was prevention rather than punishment.

“The Brunei government … tries to play down the horrible, horrible setbacks for human rights,” Barbara Lochbihler, an MEP and the lead author of the parliamentary resolution, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“We cannot exclude the possibility that they start implementing this.”

Federica Mogherini, the EU’s representative for foreign affairs, said the penalties could not be defended.

“No crime justifies amputation or torture, let alone the death penalty,” she told parliament as the resolution was debated on Thursday.

“No person should be punished for loving someone.”

Mogherini added that the EU expected Brunei to maintain its de facto moratorium on the death penalty and that it would put pressure on the sultanate bilaterally and at meetings in August.

Reporting by Rachel Savage @rachelmsavage; Editing by Lyndsay Griffiths. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit news.trust.org

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